An Update on Renters in Virginia Amid COVID-19
August 19, 2020
Each week, the U.S. Census Bureau tracks the wellbeing of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn. The Household Pulse Survey includes key questions that can help us better understand the current and future financial situations of renters and, by extension, their landlords.
Renters are disproportionately more likely to have been impacted by the economic recession. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey, more than half of renters in Virginia (54%) say that they have experienced a loss of income.
Enhanced federal unemployment benefits that were made available as part of the CARES Act provided an extra $600 per week in benefits to unemployed workers during the downturn. This expanded assistance ended the last week of July, and there have been growing concerns about renters not being able to pay rent. In mid-July, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey, about 28% of Virginia renters said that they have “no” or “little” confidence about their ability to make August rent. The share of renters nationally who are anxious about paying August rent is higher, at 34%.
An estimated 17% of Virginia renters said that they did not pay their rent in June, or that they had their June rent deferred, a share that has increased slightly over the summer but still remains below the U.S. share. Some key characteristics of Virginia renters who did not pay June rent include the following:
- Renters that have lost employment income or who live with someone who has lost employment income are much more likely to face rent challenges. More than a quarter of renter households with income losses did not pay June rent compared to 5% of renter households that had not experienced income loss.
- Non-white renters are somewhat more likely than White renters to have trouble paying rent. While 15% of White renters did not pay June rent, the share was 18% of Black renters and 33% of Hispanic renters.
- Families with children are having a harder time paying rent than are renters without children. A quarter of renters with children did not pay June rent. By comparison, 13% of renters with no children did not pay June rent.
The financial challenge for renters in Virginia is real. However, the vast majority of Virginia property managers and landlords are working with renters, offering payment plans to their tenants, according to a recent survey conducted by Virginia REALTORS®. Landlords and property managers are offering many different variations of payment plans and are often developing individual payment programs based on tenants’ particular situations. The need for landlords to continue working with tenants will likely increase over the weeks to come.
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